If you’ve watched those “How Much Youtube Paid Me…” videos, then you know that most content creators don’t answer that question until the end of the video. As you can probably guess, it’s a tactic designed to keep you watching the video and possibly seeing even more ads, thereby increasing the creator’s next paycheck.
While I enjoy these types of videos, I find that those creators who talk more about their journey to monetization are actually more helpful to me. You learn about the challenges the creator faced and how they overcame those challenges to get to that first Google Adsense paycheck. You get a sense of where they started and how they’ve made tweaks along the way to build their website or blog. You learn how to read the analytics associated with your content.
And in the end, I think you learn more than you would on your own or by watching videos that leave out the context.
The Google Adsense Program
If you don’t know what the Google Adsense program is, it is a program that allows creators to make money when Google places ads on a creator’s content that is shared on the internet. Provided the creator meets certain guidelines, Google will place ads on the creator’s YouTube channel or website or blog, and Google and the creator will split the revenues that the advertising brings in.
Of course, it’s way more complicated than that. But I think you get the point.
My Road to Google Adsense Monetization
I like to say that my journey to monetization started in 2017. But it didn’t. It started November 20, 2012, when I received this email regarding one of my YouTube accounts.
“Your account is now enabled for monetization. To help you get started, we created the following resource to guide you through your account, our policies, and provide tips to growing your audience.”
Monetization was easy back then. It was 2012, and they accepted just about anyone into the program. Unfortunately, I wasn’t ready.
At the time that monetization was enabled for my content, I worked in the government setting. The idea of someone finding out that I had a YouTube channel horrified me. Professionals just weren’t on YouTube until recently. Serious creators interested in photography and film were still expected to follow the traditional “industry” route.
I was also an attorney. How would it look for someone like me to be on YouTube?
Seven Reasons Why People Are Afraid to Have a YouTube Channel
While I used YouTube to share a couple of family videos, I did nothing else with it. Here’s my short list of reasons why.
1. Serious professionals weren’t supposed to be on YouTube. This actually gets translated to this: I was scared of what people would think. And I was. I thought that people I knew would judge me. I had a law license. Why did I go to law school if I wasn’t going to practice law.
2. Although I’m comfortable speaking in public, I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence. When you watch yourself on video, you get to see all of the things you like and those that you don’t like. Most of us have something about ourselves that we don’t like. And if we share it in a YouTube video, it’s there for all the world to see.
3. I had a camcorder, but I didn’t feel that I had the right equipment or enough equipment. I didn’t have a fancy video camera, lights, or a microphone. I didn’t have a proper backdrop. The editing equipment that I wanted to use was too expensive. I thought I didn’t have the right stuff.
4. I didn’t know what I wanted to talk about. I was totally lost on this one. Should I focus on law? Should I focus on politics? Should I focus on fitness? What if I put them all together? In order to grow on YouTube, you’re told to focus on one topic…a niche, and expand later. According to YouTube gurus and experts, you grow faster that way.
5. I didn’t know if I would make any money on YouTube. It sorta reminded me of the disclaimers that you see when you’re purchasing financial advice. Just because others had made money on YouTube didn’t mean that I would earn money on YouTube. And I wanted to be on YouTube because I liked making videos and because I wanted to make money. Period.
6. I didn’t think people would be interested in what I had to say. It was that whole… “who does she think she is to talk about this.”
7. I didn’t have a lot of extra time available. I work fulltime as an attorney, in addition to a bunch of other stuff that I do.
If you talk to a lot of YouTubers, even “successful” YouTubers, you’ll find that many of them had some of the same concerns when they started on YouTube.
But life is funny.
How Much I Made with Google Adsense
The 2017 Data
In late 2017, I decided that I was going to go all-in on my YouTube channel. I uploaded 3 videos in December, my starting month. I made it four more months before I realized that I didn’t know what I was doing and worse, and didn’t know what I wanted to do with my YouTube channel.
The 2018 Data
By May and June of 2018, I had completely signed off. I wanted to take some time to figure it out. By that point, I had only uploaded 16 videos. The videos covered fitness and local politics. Neither of those topics was working for me.
I came back in July with 15 videos. They were legal and political videos. Although I wanted to talk about fitness, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to share. I’m not a physical trainer or a nutritionist. So, I didn’t think that my experience as a long-time runner and workout enthusiast would give anyone any value. I’ve even competed in three half-marathons, coming in as the third overall woman in one race. Still…I didn’t think that was enough.
While I thought that I should use YouTube for my legal work as an attorney, I knew that fitness was really where my heart was. Taking care of myself was what helped me with the legal and political work that I was doing. So, after posting legal, political, and business videos in August, September, and October, in November I brought back more fitness videos.
On the blog, I started posting more regularly with nine videos in September, five videos in October, fourteen vidoes in November, and thirteen videos in December.
By the end of December of 2018, I was one year in. Here was my take:
I had 82 videos that I had worked on for my YouTube channel. And even though I wasn’t yet eligible for Google Adsense on YouTube, there were other ways to make money on YouTube in addition to Adsense, but I wasn’t doing any of those either.
The 2019 Data
When 2019 came around, I decided that I was committed.
But committed is a relative term.
Compared to 2018, I worked on more videos, 98 compared to 82 for the previous year. I uploaded every month. I went back to doing more fitness videos. I focused on tips and strategies because I didn’t feel comfortable telling people how to do certain exercises. In other words, I tried to find the value in what I was doing and share that value with other people. But don’t be mistaken, there were plenty of vlogs and lifestyle videos that were posted in 2019.
I also decided to start a health and fitness blog. I started in July and shared four posts. Just like with the YouTube channel, I wasn’t really sure what I wanted the blog to be. I didn’t know what a niche website was and how it differed from a blog. That was how much of a newbie I was. But I kept at it. I shared 27 articles on my blog in 2019.
I also added advertising to my law firm site. Since I’m not taking on new clients, I thought it would be better to use it as a resource for people looking for legal information. So now it shares articles on legal topics and digital downloads.
At the end of December of 2019, I was two years in. Here was my take:
Blog/Law Firm Website: $1.98
The 2020 Data
Then came 2020, the year of the virus. Even with the virus, 2020 has been one of my best years in terms of content production.
For the YouTube channel, I did more health and fitness tips and strategies videos. There weren’t videos about how to do a particular exercise or what you should eat. They included topics like how to exercise in the morning or in the cold. I also added more product reviews and more general commentary. In other words, I got more comfortable with trying different things out.
For the blog, I did more research. I learned that longer articles are better. I revamped the blog…twice. I did more SEO and used more plug-ins to help with analytics. I shared my posts in emails and on social media. I wrote more articles.
At the end of December 2020 (as of December 25, 2020), I was three years in. Here was my take:
YouTube (year-to-date): $40 (a sponsored video)
Blog/Law Firm Website: (year-to-date): $450.35
2020 Total: $490.35
In 2020, my YouTube channel received $40 in revenue. I also received numerous free products for reviews. These included a yogurt maker, yoga outfit, and waist trainers. I receive numerous offers weekly, almost all of which I turn down because they don’t fit the theme of my channel.
I’ve only recently started to add more monetization methods to my channel, such as affiliate income. We’ll see how that goes in 2021 since I don’t really expect anything from that in 2020.
For the blog, I’m still trying to figure it out. The breakdown for the $450.35 earned to date is as follows:
December (as of 12/25/2020) $63.40
The 2021 Google Adsense Journey
In 2021, the journey will continue. The amount of content produced will be higher. The quality will be better. I’ll set more goals, and I’m certain I’ll have more lessons to learn. But if you’re thinking about how to start making money in the digital space, I’ll share these thoughts.
1. Expect to have to learn a lot, and know that it will take time. Be ok with that. Otherwise, you’ll get discouraged.
2. Give yourself a break, and don’t expect perfection. You will get better over time.
3. Understand that you don’t need professional lights, mics, software, and a 4K camera. Today’s cell phones have great quality. Use Canva for your thumbnails and InShot for editing, and you’ll be good to go.
4. Get other people out of your head. Trust me. I know a lot about this one. Stop caring what other people will think.
5. And finally, don’t quit. Just keep going, and keep trying.
The journey of life offers you plenty of opportunities. You just have to be willing to take advantage of them.
Shelia Huggins is a NC licensed attorney who loves fitness and politics.